Falling is a more and more serious concern as we age, since our bones are more brittle and our bodies recover more slowly from injury. Unfortunately, throw rugs and clutter on the floor aren’t as much of a fall risk as our own legs; muscle weakness is one of the most common causes of a fall. But we can do exercises to improve balance and strength and reduce the risk of falling with some simple movements.
All you need are a pair of sturdy shoes and a stable chair! Anyone can try them. Before beginning, however, you should get your doctor’s permission and have a fall risk assessment to determine your current level of strength and balance. And always do these exercises under the supervision of a caregiver or someone who can help if you lose your balance.
Simple and Easy Training Exercises to Reduce Your Risk of Falling
Your center of gravity is key to your balance, and this exercise strengthens your core muscles to result in a better center of gravity. With your hands resting on the back of a sturdy chair, place your feet shoulder-width apart with your knees bent slightly. Shift your weight completely on to on leg/foot and hold it there for a few seconds, then switch to the other leg/foot. Do five repetitions per side and increase to 15 or 20 as you build strength. It should feel like a sort of controlled swaying. You can also do this exercise seated, as demonstrated in this video:
Lateral Leg Raises
Strengthen your hip and leg muscles on the sides of your body, which help keep you stable while walking and standing with lateral leg raises. To do these, stand behind your chair with your hands resting on its back. Position your feet shoulder-width apart with the rest of your body in alignment (shoulders, hips and knees). Shift your weight to one leg and lift the opposite leg out to the side, while flexing the foot. Perform 5-15 repetitions per leg, then switch legs. Make it more challenging by using ankle weights:
Leg raises help to improve both your core and hip muscle strength. Stand next to a sturdy chair with one hand on the back for support. With your weight on one leg, lift the opposite knee slowly and carefully until your thigh is parallel with the ground, then hold for 30 seconds before lowering your foot to the floor. Alternate with the other leg. If you can’t hold for a full 30 seconds, that’s okay! Gradually increase the length of time as your muscles get stronger. As you improve, you may be able to do this without using the chair for balance, but you should still have it available in case you wobble.
Strengthen your calf muscles for more controlled movement and stability when walking by rocking from your heels to your toes. Like with the other exercises, position yourself behind a chair with your hands on the back of the chair. Position your feet hip-width apart this time, and slowly rock backward to shift your weight to your heels. Then roll forward so that your weight is on your toes, lifting your heels off the ground. Repeat five times and build up to 15 repetitions. Check out the first two exercises in this video for a visual:
Police officers who suspect a person of driving under the influence apply this test for a reason; it’s tricky to do when your balance is compromised! For older adults who are trying to improve their balance, walking heel-to-toe can help make your regular walking more stable and controlled. Do this exercise by putting one foot directly in front of the other (heel-to-toe) and moving very slowly so that you don’t fall. It helps to have a friend or caregiver walk alongside you and ‘spot’ your movements with one arm in front and one arm behind you to easily catch you if you lose your balance. This move is demonstrated as Exercise #5 in the video above.
Looking for more ways to improve your balance and minimize your risk of falling? Here are a couple of additional exercises and ideas.
Featured photo source: Pixabay.com